THE HEART, THE WHALE, AND THE NEWEST HORIZON

Today, NASA’s New Horizons team released the first high-resolution photo of everyone’s favorite almost planet. Thanks to the baby grand piano-sized spacecraft that has been hurling through the Solar System for the past nine years, we now know Pluto’s got “ice mountains” about as tall as the Rockies. These frosted mountains may be resting on a relatively young, geologically active Plutonian surface. Who knows what else we’ll discover about Pluto’s unique terrain in the coming months. The bright, heart-shaped feature near the equator (“the heart”) may actually be composed of two geological features with different chemical compositions. The dark feature vaguely reminiscent of a whale (?) may be composed of complex hydrocarbons. Scientists are basically writing the textbook on Pluto in real time. How cool is that.